Explore these 13 family favorites close to Central Ohio.
There and back again. Travel can be intimidating, but needn't be an epic journey like Bilbo's in “The Hobbit.” For families in the summertime, it's likely to mean a day trip.
Fortunately, there's a plethora of daycation destinations for Central Ohio residents to explore, including museums, parks and other attractions. Family fun in the good ol' summertime can be found in most any direction in the Buckeye State, so we've collected some of our favorites here.
Always check online or call ahead to verify operating hours and costs before you head out.
Check out the online version of this story at ColumbusParent.com for links to past articles about some of these destinations.
AHA! A Hands-on Adventure: A Children's Museum
1708 River Valley Circle S., Lancaster; 740-653-1010; aha4kids.org
It's a big year at this nonprofit children's museum, which was started by a group of moms. After spending its first decade in a 4,000-square-foot former roller rink, AHA! now occupies a new, 8,000-square-foot location near the River Valley Mall.
All of the museum's prior exhibitions were brought to the new space and three new experiences have been added, including a popular Health Center play area. There are more than 30 exhibits in all, allowing young children the chance to explore science, art and more through play. There is also a “Plop Zone” with floor space for ages 24 months and younger.
Tables are available for visitors who bring snacks and drinks. Same-day re-entry is offered. Strollers can be parked in the main lobby. Free coat closets and lockers are available on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 4 p.m. Sundays from November to March.
Cost: $8, free for ages 12 months and younger. Parking is free.
Boonshoft Museum of Discovery
2600 DeWeese Parkway, Dayton; 937-275-7431; boonshoftmuseum.org
Founded in 1996, this children's museum does earth science, astronomy, zoology and more, all through play, activities and animals—more than 100 of them, in fact. Permanent and special exhibitions accompany the signature climbing tower, water table and hands-on experiments of all kinds.
The Boonshoft has undergone a significant facelift in the past couple of years, adding a Strictly Bricks area and renovating its Grocery Store (now the Shape Shop) and Vet Hospital. Ongoing renovations will impact the availability of some features this summer; check the website for updates.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays (special exhibits open at 11 a.m.) and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Cost: $14.50 adults, $12.50 seniors, $11.50 children ages 3-17 and free for ages 2 and younger. Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and COSI members receive half off admission.
Carillon Historical Park
1000 Carillon Blvd., Dayton; 937-293-2841; daytonhistory.org/destinations/carillon-historical-park
Mixed in with cool facts and exhibits about Dayton history are indoor and outdoor exhibits and activities that will appeal to folks from other parts of the state as well. The 65-acre property includes the Wright Brothers Aviation Center, which features one of their aircraft, and a transportation-focused center that shows other modes of travel such as a locomotive and a Conestoga wagon. Separate exhibits focus on the Great 1913 Flood and World War I. Special events in July include train rides and the Band Organ Rally.
Hours: 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays.
Cost: $8 adults, $7 seniors, $5 children ages 3-17 and free for ages 2 and younger. Parking is free.
Historic Roscoe Village
600 N. Whitewoman St., Coshocton; 800-877-1830; roscoevillage.com
Like stepping back in time, a trip to Roscoe Village means an immersive experience in an 1830s canal port town. The centerpiece is a mile-long stretch of period businesses including a general store, a jeweler, a sweets shop and others. Horse-drawn boat rides are offered on the Ohio and Erie Canal from May through September.
Living History Tours take visitors to a blacksmith shop, residence, doctor's office, one-room schoolhouse and other destinations. Children can try period activities such as candle dipping and rope making.
Hours: The visitor center is generally open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Tour schedules vary seasonally.
Cost: Walking through the village is free. Tours, boat rides and other activities have fees.
Hocking Hills State Park
19852 State Route 664 S., Logan; 740-385-6842; parks.ohiodnr.gov/hockinghills and hockinghills.com
The Hocking Hills region continues to be Ohio's natural playground. Scenic hikes to caves and waterfalls are augmented by canoeing, zip-lining and horseback riding. Then there's the Hocking Valley Scenic Railway—who doesn't like trains?
Old Man's Cave is the best-known spot in this 2,356-acre state park, but there's plenty more scenery, including Cedar Falls for those who aren't up for a lengthy hike.
And the region is getting a new destination this year in the John Glenn Astronomy Park (jgap.info), which was scheduled to open June 21. Located less than a mile from the entrance to Old Man's Cave, this park combines an appreciation for both modern and ancient science in learning about the sky and space.
Little Buckeye Children's Museum
44 W. Fourth St., Mansfield; 419-522-2332; littlebuckeye.org
Built around the notion of the “power of play,” this venue in downtown Mansfield, which opened in 2011, is geared to ages 2-12. Children can use their imagination in a dinosaur dig, theater, doctor's office and little airport as they explore science, art and more.
While in Mansfield, take a side trip to Richland Carrousel Park (richlandcarrousel.com) or the Mansfield Fire Museum and Education Center (mansfieldfiremuseum.com).
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays Memorial Day to Labor Day; and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays the rest of the year.
Cost: $8 ages 2 and older. COSI members get half off admission.
The Mazza Museum
Virginia B. Gardner Fine Arts Pavilion, University of Findlay, 1000 N. Main St., Findlay; 419-434-4560; mazzamuseum.org
Picture you and your kids taking in the world's largest collection of original artwork from children's books, and you're imagining a trip to this unique space in Findlay. The Mazza features well-known picture book art from the likes of Eric Carle and Maurice Sendak as well as a plethora of other work designed to promote literacy and a love of books.
There's also the Children's Museum of Findlay (cmfindlay.com), if you'd like to add some imaginative play to your day.
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays through Fridays and 1-4 p.m. Sundays. Open other times by appointment. The facility recommends using 201 College St. to get GPS directions.
Cost: Free but donations are accepted. Tours are offered for a fee.
Mighty Children's Museum
21 E. Fourth St., Chillicothe; 740-773-6444; mightymuseum.org
This new museum in downtown Chillicothe, which targets children birth through age 12 with a “sweet spot” of 3-5, opened in October 2017. Described as “Chillicothe in a nutshell,” the 4,000-square-foot Mighty celebrates the city's rural heritage and region's Native American history with a Farm to Market exhibit and The Dig Site. Additional features include a scarf-shooting tree, water table and a ball wall for little ones.
The museum also has daily programming. Check the museum's Facebook page for the latest updates.
The museum shares a building, but not a storefront, with Paper City Coffee, so it's got a bonus cool factor.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays.
Cost: $6 ages 6 months and older.
2210 E. State Route 245, West Liberty; 937-465-4017; ohiocaverns.com
Head west for a cool trip underground in the largest cavern system in Ohio. It's really cool, too, if you're in need of a break from the summer swelter, since the caverns maintain a geothermal temperature of 54 degrees year-round. The 35-acre site is above 2 miles of winding passageways that reach a depth of 103 feet.
Several tours are offered for a fee. Other activities include gem mining, a gift shop and picnic area. Some areas in the caverns are too narrow for wheelchairs and strollers, but the Limestone Tour is accessible (advance registration is required).
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily May 1 to Sept. 30 and 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 1 to April 30.
Cost: Varies by tour, $17-$29 ages 13 and older, $9-$15 ages 5-12 and free for ages 4 and younger.
Velvet Ice Cream's Ye Olde Mill
11324 Mount Vernon Road, Utica; 800-589-5000; velveticecream.com/visit
You don't have to take a 30-minute tour before enjoying your favorite flavor of Velvet Ice Cream, but you can, and they're fun and informative. Then you can get to the heart of the matter, the sweet treats that Velvet has been making since 1914 (Ye Olde Mill opened in 1970). Visitors can also walk the 20-acre grounds on their own, seeing the milling museum and the ducks on the pond.
Live music is planned most Saturday and Sunday afternoons in the summer.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily in July and August, with closing time earlier as the season continues. Half-hour walking tours are offered at the top of the hour between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. May 1 to Oct. 31.
Cost: Tours are free.
14000 International Road, Cumberland; 740-638-5030; thewilds.org
Whatever way you choose to explore the 10,000 acres (reclaimed from a surface-mining operation)—by bus, horseback, mountain bike or zip line—the main attraction is viewing more than two dozen species, many of them unusual or endangered, that roam The Wilds. Guided tours allow visitors to learn more about the animals, and fishing, bird-watching and a butterfly habitat also are offered.
Numerous lodging options are available. A café and gift shop are also on-site.
Hours: Tours are offered from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily May to September and on weekends in October. Limited tours are offered the rest of the year. Reservations are recommended.
Cost: $30-$125, based on tour type. Zoo members get a 50 percent discount on open-air safari tours.
The Works: Ohio Center for History, Art & Technology
55 S. First St., Newark; 740-349-9277; attheworks.org
The Works, a family-focused science museum, opened its new SciDome planetarium in early June. The 30-foot dome features a 4K digital projection system for trips not only through the night sky, but just about anywhere film made for a dome can take you.
Built in partnership with Ohio State University Newark, it's a nice addition to the hands-on science labs, local history exhibits, art galleries and glass-blowing studio at The Works, which takes up a full downtown city block.
Hours: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.
Cost: $10 adults, $8 seniors, $6 children ages 2-17 and free for ages 2 and younger. COSI members receive half off admission.
Young's Jersey Dairy
6880 Springfield-Xenia Road, Yellow Springs; 937-325-0629; youngsdairy.com
Kids activities, mini golf, batting cages, a petting zoo and more can be found at this longtime favorite in Green County. Buy ice cream from the parlor or a full meal at the on-site restaurant.
Young's is located near a pair of outdoor wonders in Clifton Gorge State Nature Preserve and John Bryan State Park, for those seeking scenic outdoor fun. Visitors should also plan for a few minutes to stop at the nearby sunflower field and, if time permits, underappreciated Hartman Rock Garden in Springfield (hartmanrockgarden.org).
Hours: The store and market are open 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays and 7 a.m. to midnight Fridays and Saturdays through Aug. 14. Closing time is one hour earlier from mid-August through early November. Kiddie Corral and Petting Zoo summer hours are 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., respectively.
Cost: Admission and some activities are free; most add-ons have a fee.